The weather has turned cold this week. The idea of getting up at 5 am in 40° temperatures to chase fish is less appealing, though, obviously, not out of the question. As winter approaches and there are fewer fishing days, there is a great way to enjoy fishing and friends: the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association.
The Surfcasters was created in 1989 “to encourage the sport of surfcasting; to gather for entertainment and good fellowship; to promote and uphold sound conservation practices and laws, and to see that these laws are properly carried out by members; to further good sportsmanship; and to seek and protect public access to fishing areas on Martha’s Vineyard,” says Arnold Spofford, a founding member of the club, incredible fisherman, and talented luremaker.
The club has grown over the years, and has added events and fundraisers while maintaining the core purpose of bringing together people who love fishing. Members range in age from 20somethings to octogenarians to even a few nonagenarians.
If you enjoy fishing, once a year or every day, the Surfcasters have much to offer. “It’s a social club,” said treasurer Phil Horton, a 20-year member. “We have a core group of folks who fish and fish competitively. Then we have folks who don’t fish as much, but want to stay connected to the fishing community.”
“I love fishing, love meeting and socializing with others who fish, and I always enjoy participating in projects, events, and group activities that help to make this sport available to others, and bring awareness about the beauty and uniqueness of our beach environment, fishing etiquette, and support to those who want to learn to fish,” said Ursula Kreskey, 81, who’s been an MVSA member for 16 years and counting. “I’m always learning something new from other members … a new lure, better casting techniques, a more promising fishing spot, and most of all, the opportunity to share with others in making lasting and unique surfcasting memories!”
The Surfcasters meet monthly from November through May, on the first Monday of the month. Fresh pizza is free for all at 7 pm, and the meeting begins at 7:30 pm. There is a guest speaker at each meeting. We’ve had the M.V. Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, Trustees of Reservations, M.V. Shellfish, M.V. Beach Access Group, tackle shop owners, luremakers, authors, and Gus Ben David on ospreys, just to name a few speakers.
The club has thrived and evolved under the recent seven-year leadership of president Donald Scarpone. Scarpone created the annual Used Tackle Sale that benefits annual scholarships for graduating MVRHS seniors: “The tag sale is great on two points: First, we sell lures and rods to families at a cost they can afford, and it gets kids fishing. Second, we raise money for scholarships.”
At the first MVSA tackle, members had their own tables, and kept whatever monies they raised. The following year, Scarpone organized club members to donate their equipment and give 100 percent of the profits to scholarships. The tackle sale has grown so much that the club needed to rent a storage unit to hold members and the public’s donations. “In five years, we went from raising $6,500 to $14,000,” said Scarpone.
“Yes, fishing is the core component upon which long-lasting friendships have been built. We’ve enjoyed the company of both younger and older folks with incredibly fascinating lives outside of fishing. Bob does most of the volunteering for the club at the tag sale, and doing filet duty, while I focus on off-Island philanthropic efforts. We fully support the scholarship program for Island students. The cost of post–high school education and vocational training has skyrocketed, so it feels great to be able to help the Island youth follow their dreams,” said Brenda Gerosa-Beal, who’s been a club member with her husband Bob for 15 years.
If you have any gently used fishing gear — boat or shore — that you’d like to donate to the tackle sale, please contact Scarpone at email@example.com.
Since fishing is the focus, there are plenty of friendly, spur-of-the-moment competitions on the beach, as well as the annual MVSA In-House Derby, monthly awards, and the club’s catch-and-release shore shark tournament, and a family Christmas party that Santa always visits. The club hosts an annual banquet in February, where awards are given, lots of food is eaten, friendship is celebrated, and speakers share knowledge on important conservation and environmental topics.
I love everything about the club — the wonderful people, the outdoor get-togethers, the monthly meetings, the competitions — but what I love most is any education programs the club does with children.
In June, the Edgartown School hosted a morning of fishing for students. MVSA club members taught students how to cast, how to bait a hook, and how to land a fish. In July, we had another outing with an Island Cub Scout troop. The smiles on the Cub Scouts’ faces, especially those kids landing their first fish, were priceless.
The Surfcasters also have rods and tackle boxes for children who cannot afford to purchase gear. If you know a child who would like to start fishing and needs some financial assistance, please reach out to Scarpone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My goal this year is to bring in younger people to the club. I want to get more kids fishing,” said Scarpone.
If you’re interested in the M.V. Surfcasters, we will be meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, at 7 pm at the Edgartown Rod and Gun Club. Come and check out the meeting. If you decide to join, membership is only $30, whether you’re an individual or a family.
You can check out the M.V. Surfcasters by visiting the website, mvsurfcasters.org. There are back issues of the monthly newsletter on the website, which will give you a great idea of how much fun the club has, and how active it is in the community.
If you’re following OctoberFish — and who hasn’t been! ‚— we’ll have coverage of the winners and the key ceremony next week. The last weigh-in was on Halloween after our print deadline. Who will get the best treats?
I hope to see you on the beach … or at the Surfcasters meeting on Monday night at 7 pm at the Edgartown Rod and Gun Club.